tv PBS News Hour PBS May 30, 2012 6:00pm-7:00pm PDT
captioning sponsored by macneil/lehrer productions >> brown: syrians shouted in anger and relief, anxious to tell their stories of the weekend's horrific massacre to u.n. observers and a television team. good evening, i'm jeffrey brown. >> woodruff: and i'm judy woodruff. on the "newshour" tonight, we go inside the town of houla with alex thomson of "independent television news," the first journalist to report from there. >> brown: then, we turn to the 2012 presidential match-up on track to be the most expensive contest ever. >> woodruff: we examine the internet virus known as "the flame" that may be able to snatch data and eavesdrop on computer users. >> brown: in the first of two reports, paul solman assesses the true cost of student-loan debt, now topping $1 trillion.
>> reporter: beth hansen has just started making loan payments: $468 a month. will she ever pay off her loans? >> i may die first. so. in which case, they would need a copy of my death certificate to finally cancel my loan. >> woodruff: ray suarez talks with dolores huerta, honored with the presidential medal of freedom for her efforts to secure higher wages and better working conditions for farm laborers. >> i came to the homes of some of these farm workers. their furniture was orange crates and their children were barefooted and i thought, "this is wrong." >> brown: and we remember folk and bluegrass legend guitarist and singer doc watson. that's all ahead on tonight's "newshour." major funding for the pbs newshour has been provided by: >> growing up in arctic norway, everybody took fish oil to stay healthy. when i moved to the united
states almost 30 years ago, i could not find an omega-3 fish oil that worked for me. i became inspired to bring a new definition of fish oil quality to the world. today, nordic naturals is working to fulfill our mission of bringing omega-3s to everyone, because we believe omega-3s are essential to life. and with the ongoing support of these institutions and foundations. and... this program was made possible by the corporation for public broadcasting. and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you.
>> brown: a new atrocity surfaced in syria today-- the bodies of 13 people, found in an eastern province. their hands had been tied and some had been shot in the head, execution-style. the discovery followed friday's massacre in houla, where 108 people were killed after anti- government protests. alex thomson of "independent television news" is the first outside correspondent to get into houla. he filed this report. >> reporter: the u.n. warned us you'll pass the last syrian army checkpoint then it's no man's land. space out the vehicles as we go across and if shooting starts, do a u-turn and get the hell out. you're on your own. it is a chilling mile long straight drive through the broken empty buildings. watch for the dead horse rotting in the street on the right. pass that and there's an abandoned personnel carrier of the syrian army and you're in to
rebel-held houla. ( chanting ) "we'll cut assad's throat," they chant. they want to scream at us, they want to shout, they want to chant. they want to show us fragments of shells. i have scarcely ever seen people so desperate to tell their story. u.n. observers simply embraced before they can observe anything at all. they're chanting the relief. the anger is palpable in this place. they've seen very few people from the outside. they've certainly never seen a journalist here since the horrors overtook this town back on friday. from that moment, we were taken away, swept up, lead from house to house where everyone has a story to tell. and when it comes to the men who carried out the massacre here on friday, it is the same one. this man who didn't wish to give his name speaks for everyone here it seems.
hang on, this is important. you know where this militia came from? which villages? >> ( indiscernible ) >> reporter: so you think these are alawites from nearby here? >> yes, 100 percent. >> reporter: how do you know? >> they were wearing black clothes and writing on their foreheads "la baka ali." >> reporter: "la baka ali" is a shiite slogan in this region. houla is on the plain, overwhelmingly sunni. the killers, they say came, down from the hills to the west where the villagers are sheer and alawite. to the southwest, this is taldou, named again and again by people here as a village where the killers have come from.
so too, fullah to the northwest, again named by different people, at different times, in different locations as being a place where the killers live. time and again they showed us their videos of the massacre aftermath. we can't show pictures of children virtually decapitated by knives, women with their faces shot away, tiny mutilated bodies of toddlers. survivors scarred by all this constantly brought to our attention, like three-year-old siddara who was wounded by shrapnel, but her mother is dead. for now though, time is up for the red crescent and the u.n., we had to move out. south, back across no-man's land and away from this string place. >> woodruff: the killings in houla prompted a starkly worded report to the u.n. security council today. an aide to special envoy kofi annan said there are serious
doubts that the syrian government has any intention of adhering to a peace plan. afterward, u.s. ambassador susan rice warned of what could lie ahead. >> the violence escalates; the conflict spreads and intensifies. it reaches a higher degree of severity, it involves countries in the region, it take on increasingly sectarian forms and we have a major crisis not only in syria but in the region. >> brown: russia warned today that western moves to expel syrian diplomats will only make things worse. the russian ambassador to the u.n. vitaly churkin said calls for even tougher action against syria will make a shambles of the middle east. he spoke to i.t.n. correspondent matt fry. >> if things go really bad in syria and some hotheads have it their way, you know, the entire region, you'll look and then you'll see what russia-- why russia is so active in trying to see a political solution. this is our main interest. >> woodruff: the syrian government insisted today it
won't be intimidated by outside pressure. but syrian rebels warned president assad to comply with the u.n. peace plan within 48 hours. >> brown: still to come on the "newshour": the money pouring into the presidential race; the computer virus called "the flame"; the mounting burden of student loan debt; medal of freedom winner dolores huerta and legendary guitarist doc watson. but first, the other news of the day. here's kwame holman. >> holman: stock markets on both sides of the atlantic took a beating today, as europe's financial situation worsened. borrowing rates rose sharply for spain and italy, and spanish banks faced growing pressure from real estate losses. on wall street, fears of fallout for the u.s. economy sparked a sell-off. the dow jones industrial average lost nearly 161 points to close under 12,420. the nasdaq fell 33 points to close at 2,837. meanwhile, the european union's executive office called for a banking union to contain the damage of possible bank
failures. the agency said a banking union would allow all countries to share the cost of bailing out individual banking sectors. former liberian president charles taylor was sentenced to 50 years in prison today, for fomenting civil war in neighboring sierra leone. the decade-long conflict ended in 2002 with 50,000 dead. an international war crimes court handed down the sentence in the netherlands. the panel convicted taylor last month of murder, rape, torture and the use of child soldiers. the chief prosecutor had sought an even longer sentence. she spoke after today's court session. >> i think any time a person who commits these very, very serious crimes, and it's proven beyond a reasonable doubt they commit them, any time such a person is convicted and sentenced, it's a good day. >> holman: the prosecution left open the possibility of appealing for an 80-year prison term for the 64-year-old taylor. meanwhile, taylor's lawyers already have signaled they plan to appeal his convictions.
britain's highest court has upheld an order to extradite wikileaks founder julian assange, to sweden. the anti-secrecy activist is wanted for questioning there on allegations of rape and sexual assault. assange has denied any wrongdoing. his legal team now is weighing whether to try to reopen the extradition case. a pakistani doctor shakil afridi was jailed for conspiring with militants and not for helping the c.i.a. track osama bin laden. that's according to pakistani court documents released today. they showed afridi was convicted, and sentenced to 33 years in prison, for giving money to a militant group and treating its leaders at a hospital. pakistani officials initially said afridi was convicted of treason for aiding in the bin laden hunt. pope benedict the sixteenth broke his silence today on a scandal involving leaked documents. the pontiff's butler, paolo gabriele, was arrested last week
after vatican investigators discovered papal documents in his apartment. today, benedict directly addressed the issue for the first time. he spoke during his weekly audience with the faithful in st. peter's square. >> ( translated ): the events of the past few days involving a few of my aides have brought sadness to my heart, but it has never obscured the firm certainty that, despite the weakness of men, the difficulties and the tests, the church is guided by the holy spirit, and god will never deny his help to sustain it on its journey. >> holman: the leaks have become one of the worst breaches of security for the holy see in recent memory. but the pope complained that some of the reporting on the scandal amounts to exaggerated and gratuitous rumors. those are some of the day's major stories. now, back to judy. >> woodruff: and we turn to the presidential campaign as the republicans now all but officially have their candidate. president obama phoned mitt romney today to congratulate him on wrapping up the g.o.p. nomination.
romney's win in texas, on tuesday, effectively sets up a two-man contest on a five-month timetable. president obama, and his republican challenger have that long to corral votes. but it's not just voters, there's also the money. romney's been on a heavy schedule of fundraisers, including yesterday's in las vegas, with donald trump. the event aimed to raise upwards of $2 million. >> woodruff: indeed, the president has held his own series of big fundraisers, we are going to keep pushing and we continue to fight and we still hope and we are still going after change that we believe in.
( applause ) and i'm going to need you to do it it. >> woodruff: and won at the home of actor george clean earlier this month that net a record $15 million. the obama re-election effort ended april with $147 million in the bank. that was more than double romney's total of $61 million in cash on hand. and today, the president's campaign tweeted, asking for more help, ahead of the fundraising deadline for may. but that's only part of the story. outside groups supporting romney are lining up to put additional, unrestricted amounts of money behind him. "politico" reported today that republican super-pacs and other groups are prepared to spend up to $1 billion on the presidential and congressional races this year. chief among the spenders: billionaire industrialists
charles and david koch, giving $395 million for political advocacy. and the pro-romney super pac restore our future planning to spend $100 million on advertising. by contrast, outside democratic groups are expected to spend a total of three to $500 million, only about half the total of their republican counterparts. all of which means that 2012 will certainly be the most expensive election ever with both sides poised to spend a $1 billion apiece. in 2008, then-candidate obama, and republican john mccain spent just over a billion dollars, combined. with so much more money being raised this year, how will it be spent? we turn to two reporters who closely track campaign finance. tom hamburger is with the "washington post" and ken vogel is with "politico".
gentlemen, it's all about the money, at least that's what we're talking about tonight. ken vogel, so these outside republican groups can actually raise $1 billion? >> it essential appears so. when i covered the first cycle of this unlimited outside money in 2010, which was sort of precipitate bide these federal court decisions that allowed these outside grouped to accept unlimited funds from very wealthy donors there were some really vast, big figures that upper thrown about that karl kal rove's group were talking about raising $52 million. i thought there's no way they are going to raise that much. they raised more than that. they raised upwards of $70 million. there are many more groups raising that kind of money, and the conservative donors, these very wealthy business type are especially motivate they have a deep enmity towards president obama. >> woodruff: tom hamburger,
how much do we know about who is giving this money? >> that's the big concern. there is not only a big increase in money. there is a big increase of secret money. for many of the groups described today in the story that ken hundreds produce, there are organizations like crossroads g.p.s., like some of the koh, ch brothers backed groups are are 51 c-4, nonprofit organizations that do not disclose their donors. some challenges to us as reporters and some say a challenge to democracy itself, unknown donors, donors giving these vast funds. >> woodruff: can the outside groups supporting president obama, supporting democratic candidates, can they financial come close? >> short answer. no. they're trying to offset the disadvantage by focusing their efforts differently. while the right is focused
almost entirely on political seas advertising, the left is focusing on the retail politicking. but the reason why democrats are going to be unable to match dollar for dollar is some of their biggest donors are simply not writing the same types of checks that republicans are and there are a number of reasons for that including the last time they really wrote these big checks was 2004 to defeat george bush, obviously, unsuccessful. that left a bad northwest their mouth. also, president obama has discouraged this type of outside spending in past, most recently in 2008, when frankly he didn't need the help he was on a historic fund-raising clip and told people don't give this money. and a lot of the donors are not that excited about the obama presidency. >> woodruff: come ham, we know a lot of money is being spent on television advertising. what else?
there's so much. at some point you absorb all the television air time there is, right? >> yes. it would seem as though there was a finite amount of air time to buy. one of the things that we're seeing in this cycle, judy, which we-- is another first, is the early start of the campaign. so we are seeing vast advertising buys, particularly in the swing states of missouri, ohio, race where's there's not only a close presidential contest but also senate seats at stake. spending months and months earlier than we've seen it before. >> woodruff: and no coordination is what the law says, between these outside groups and the official campaign? >> the law says, judy, no coordination, and yet one can't help but notice that there is a close familiarity between the themes that are offered by the superpacs or the organizations that are supposedly independent, and those that are backing an official candidate. >> woodruff: so, ken vogel,
what more do candidates get with more money? do they get a qualitative, a better message with more air time? what's the difference? >> well, one of the things that these outside groups allow the candidates to do is to sit back and let someone else do their dirty work. almost all of these odds group ads have been negative thus far, and i don't see any reason to believe that's going to change as we head towards election day. so even while it seems that there are these close links between the candidates and these outside groups, sometimes they're former staffers are run these groups, they can say we're prohibited from coordinating with the groups so even if we don't like the negative messages there's nothing we can do. whether that's a benefit or not, a lot of viewers watch the ads and don't think to themselves, this is the romney superpac attacking president obama. they think mitt romney is going after president obama. >> woodruff: and what about money, tom hamburger, spent on grass-roots organizing, knocking
on doors, handing out fliers, having conversations with voters? >> we are seeing in some campaigns-- ken mentioned a moment ago that democratic candidates in the democratic party, which is not able to compete so far as well or as aggressively with republicans raising money for television ads, may be turning more to grass-roots-style organizing-- door-to-door activity, phone banks, opposition research, and that sort of thing. both parties are in close competition there. both parties and their allies on the left and the right have taken a play from organized-- a page from the organized labor play book-- go door to door. find individual-- potential support and look them in the eye and that's increasingly a source or a destination for campaign money. >> woodruff: you both talked to people in campaigns all the time. is there a sense that all this is good for democracy or is that even part of the conversation? >> that's, frankly, not part of the conversation on the
operative side of things. these are folks who are political professionals. they make money by spending money on these types of ads, and they believe-- and there's reason to believe that this is not a farfetched belief-- that this type of advertising works, negative advertising in particular works. that's why campaigns do it. it's also easier than the type of grass-roots organizing tom was talking about. >> woodruff: in fact you raise the point i wanted to mention and that is, tom hamburger, that this money does go to television stations, radio stations around the country, and these consultants. >> yes. >> woodruff: who are the middle men, so to speak, in the process. >> yes. there's a whole class of beneficiaries of this extraordinary spending. the consultants, the ad buyers, those who produce the ads. and if i can just jump in on your question on the effect on democracy, judy. i do hear that discussed, sometimes from campaign managers and candidates themselves who say these democrats have a way of being hijacked now by outside
interests in a way we haven't seen before, and it requires a whole new strategy and approach to elections and a wariness of the big outside money that can roll in. >> woodruff: it's certainly added another dimension to what we want to follow as we follow the campaign. tom hamburger, ken vogel, thank you. >> thank you. >> brown: now, a computer virus grabbing international attention for its size and sophistication. yesterday, a russian internet security firm released a report about the so-called "flame" virus that's appeared in iran and elsewhere in the middle east. and today, tehran confirmed that some of its computers were infected, including those tied to the oil industry. flame is thought to be a virus used for espionage, reportedly capable of taking computer screenshots, logging keystrokes, and even listening in on skype calls and office conversations. it can also steal information
from any bluetooth-enabled cell phones that are nearby. the emergence of flame is drawing comparisons to the 2010 stuxnet virus that penetrated and damaged iran's nuclear program. israel was widely suspected of being behind that attack. so far, israeli officials have not confirmed or denied involvement with this new virus. on tuesday, israeli vice premier moshe yaalon said, "whoever sees the iranian threat as a significant threat is likely to take various steps, including these, to hobble it." so, what do we know and what do we not know? for a closer look at all this, we turn to dave shackleford, chief technology officer, for the institute for applied network security or ians an information security research firm. and catherine lotrionte, professor and executive director of the institute for law, science and global security at georetown university. she is also a former legal counsel at the c.i.a. dave shackleford, start, with
fill us in a little bit more. what is the flame? how do you describe it and what does it do? >> so the flame is actually a fairly sophisticated piece of malwear. there's been a lot of discussion in the internet security community around this in the last few days, and quite a few research organizations have done a fairly thorough type of disassembly of this piece of code. and it looks to be fairly sophisticated. again, it's got a lot of capabilities. it's able to look for specific data types. it's able to look for new systems that are vulnerable within organizations' networks. it's able to exfill trait that data in a number of different ways. again, it's fairly large, so that's a little bit unusual. it's pretty big for one of these very sophisticate piece of malware these days but it looks to have a lot of capabilities. >> brown: catherine lotrionte, it's more about collecting
information than destroying things, right. so watching skype, listening in on telephones, things like that? >> it is a clandestine intelligence collection tool and pretty effective in terms of analysis of the done by the different groups in the multiple ways it collects information, whether it's through skype, which staunch thing to actually use as surveillance, to break into as a surveillance tool. it looks to be broad sweeping. i'm looking at a number of different targets across a variety of geographic locations, but these were all specifically designated targets, and that's what is an indication of a very good, tailors collection tool. >> brown: what do we know about who might have done is it it. and what the targets will be? >> the cybersecurity experts who have looked at it have been able to identify certain locations in particular country where's
systems, computers and networks, have been compromised. they have identified mainly middle east countries, iran, israel, palestine, hungary, saudi arabia, sudan, syria, egypt. what is interesting this that the more you know about the targets-- and one day we'll be able to-- not right now-- but as they do more work-- and it may take up to a year to actually dissect it and know more about this code-- the more you know about the targets will tell you about the purpose of the operation itself. >> brown: dave shackleford when you say it's big what, does that mean in lay men's terms and how does that make a difference? >> well, that makes a fairly significant difference actually because the trend in malled ware writing has been the opposite-- to create smaller code that's much more difficult to detect or really be able to pick up by things like antivirus
programs or other types of security programs help this particular piece of malled ware is over 20 megabytes in size, which is highly unusual. that ties into the all the different capabilities that this piece of malware has. it has a lot of different options available to it. it's built so that malware authors canned and adapt the piece of malware itself and change it to what they'd like it to do-- monlook at different data types or target specific organizations but still fairly large, which again i think has some people wondering whether or not this was really intended for complete stealth or weather it was built to have the entire tool kit in one place. >> brown: i guess we should say malware refers to software with a bad purpose. >> exactly. a lot of people think viruses, but the term "viruses" is a
little too specific so we usually use a fairly broad, encompassing word like "malled ware." >> brown: catherine lotrionte, this is just part of the new world of cyberspying. how does it fit in? >> there is a difference between cyberwar and cyberespionage. as an intelligence tool, flame, the purpose of it was to collect information from specific contingents. unof unlike stuxnet, where it was destructive. they may both be using the same vulnerabilities to get into a particular computer, but once they're in, their payload is different, that basically means their job, the mob of the the job of the malled ware was different. in the case of flame, it was to collect. in international war, for instance, war is distinguishable from espionage. both can and have been occurring in cyberspace. this is not actually the first
intelligence tool in cyberspace as malware. we've seen others before, zeus, and the u.s. has been a target of this. it is a reality espionage intelligence collection against foreign targets, foreign nations, foreign leaders, individuals. it's just a fact, the reality of it. >> brown: would it definitely be a government-to-government thing or would it also be nongovernmentable enities as well? >> in this case, certainly there are corporations that conduct corporate espionage against each other across national boundaries. in this case, most of the technical experts have said that the sophistication of the code, that it is as large as it is, it probably had the resources of a state actor in which putting it together. that is why the key is understanding the targets. understanding the individuals. right now, none of the reports that i have read by the security experts have identified individuals by name. but they can do that, and they will do that. that will tell you who would
want to target those individuals glove and dave shackleford, just briefly, that process unwinds over a period of looking at the code and trying to figure out all the different aspects to is itt? i guess as you said, there's a debate in the community of what this is and how sophisticated it is. >> absolutely. and so there's definitely research ongoing right now. it may take some time to really unravel it, ass it a fairly large and sophisticated piece of code. most of the security experts i have spoken with and different people in the community have generally come to the conclusion-- this may be somewhat flawed at this point-- this is not actually anything that new. in fact, most of the capabilities that seem to be within flame, we've seen for over 10 years. in fact, these monitoring capabilities and the ability to get keystrokes from a keyboard or turn on the microphone on a system, we've had those for quite some time.
in fact, what we're seeing here is unique only in the sense that it's all bundled into one piece of malware, and that it's been deliberately put out, again, to specific targets that really raise some different questions. the malled ware itself does not really seem to be that unique other than that. >> brown: all right, a mystery to watch. dave shackleford, and catherine lotrionte, thank you both very much. >> woodruff: now, the first of two reports on the ever-growing student loan debt problem. "newshour" economics correspondent paul solman tallies up the larger toll it's taking and what it means for new graduates. it's part of his ongoing reporting "making sense of financial news." >> reporter: america's age-old academic rite of spring: commencement. degree in hand, graduates are about to begin real life and the world of work. what's different these days is
the cost of that degree, and the extent to which it's been financed with debt. americans owe $700 billion in car loans; more than $800 billion on our credit cards. but student debt now tops $1 trillion, and it's not just weighing down the 37 million former students who owe it, said economist paul krugman at a recent public interview, but the whole economy. >> the preponderance of the evidence is that the biggest single factor keeping us where we are, keeping us in this depression is the overhang of debt. >> reporter: and student debt, we asked him a few days later. >> household debt is the big ball and chain on this economy and student debt is a big part of it. >> reporter: so how, you might wonder, could people like ricky evans, age 32, who works in finance in the d.c. area and earns upwards of $70,000 a year, still have student loans of more than $80,000? >> honestly, back then, i barely understood interest rates.
>> reporter: what about 27-year- old teacher beth hansen? in addition to working full time at a maryland middle school, she now works two other part time jobs, and yet earned only $46,000 total last year while still owing more than $60,000. >> looking for employment? >> yes. >> reporter: she's now looking for a waitressing job to make ends meet, working tables after teaching seventh and eighth graders all day. did she anticipate the load she was taking on? >> think how old was i when i signed my first promissory note- - 17. am i really going to read said promissory note from beginning to end. >> reporter: or understand it. >> or understand, even if i had read it. >> most students will sign whatever piece of papers put in front of them and they won't pay attention to it. >> reporter: mark kantrowitz is a financial aid expert. >> there's no one out there telling them: don't borrow too much. >> reporter: daniel habtemeriam, 28, a medical statistician at the krugman event, says student
debt is depressing pretty much everyone he knows. >> i know for myself and as well as for many of my peers we've put off major life decisions, we've put off having children, putting off buying a house. my peers, they just don't have enough revenue, they don't have enough income, they don't have enough security and enough sort of confidence in their future income. >> reporter: and the overhang of debt is restraining them? >> it's a terrible burden, yes. >> reporter: beth hansen is typical. >> i live in a one bedroom apartment and it's the cheapest one i can find, and it's still 35% of my monthly income. that also makes it so much more difficult to pay off my student loans. thinking about my life with my future with my fiance-- are we going to be able to buy a house? no, because i have no money in the bank. there's no money for a down payment. there's no collateral. >> reporter: the standard loan contract allows anyone who cannot pay, like hansen, to put off payment for years. but the amount owed rises in the
meantime, as the deferred interest is added to the total bill. meanwhile, since the crash, many public employees have seen their earnings decrease. >> i've actually been making less each year because they furloughed us one year and then this year they increased the amount that i had to pay into my retirement, so i've gotten a 2% pay decrease. and i don't know what they're going to do next year, but there's certainly been no cost of living increase in four years. >> reporter: four years after graduating, hansen has just started making loan payments: $468 a month. to cover it, she's interviewing for that waitressing job. will she ever pay off her loans? >> i may die first. so, in which case, they would need a copy of my death certificate to finally cancel my loan. >> college is a very good investment. >> reporter: economist judith scott clayon studies higher ed. >> your level of education is the biggest single predictor of your lifetime earnings that you can control, that you can do something about.
and so it makes a lot of sense to borrow, to finance this investment which is going to pay off over the whole, you know, 30 to 40 years that you're working. >> reporter: but tell that to recently minted bas in the job recently minted b.a.s in the job market of the past few years, whose reality has clashed with the pretty picture painted during orientation week. >> they tell you: oh, you've made such a good decision by joining our family. this is going to pay off so well in your future, and our graduates have received this and this award and that award, and they're prestigiously employed at, you know, "x" and such. so you think that that's clearly what's going to happen for you as well. >> reporter: so students borrowed money from the government or private lenders, each with different terms, interest rates and payback options. the students tended to ignore the total tab, or even what's called the opportunity cost-- the income they might have earned if they hadn't gone to school.
now the next generation sees what happened, and may become wary. but a frightened overreaction is also a risk, says economist judith scott clayton. >> the risk is if they decide not to go because they're afraid of taking out debt, they may actually end up in a worse situation than had they decided to go. >> reporter: now, one reason student debt has surged past a trillion dollars-- 80% of it owed to uncle sam-- is because college has become increasingly expensive. and the cato institutes neal mccluskey thinks he knows why: because of government loans. >> the massive inflation we see in tuition in college prices have gone up faster than healthcare, faster than almost any other major industry, well that's a product in large part of federal student aid. and again, if you give someone $100, you tell them they have to use it for college, and colleges know they have it, of course they're going to raise their prices.
>> reporter: the government begs to differ. >> federal subsidies are not the reason that college costs have escalated. >> reporter: if government aid drives tuition, says undersecretary of education martha kanter, how come prices are rising fastest at state schools? >> just last year if you look at states, over 80% of states have dramatically cut american higher education. institutions of higher education raise tuition when that happens. >> reporter: but no matter who's responsible, soaring tuitions mean soaring debts mean more defaults. and that's bad news, says mark kantrowitz. >> when someone defaults on a student loan, it's like a trip through hell. all the negative things that occur, the garnishments, the interception of your income tax returns, your credit is ruined. >> reporter: moreover, unlike credit card and other borrowing, congress has legislated you
can't even escape student debt through bankruptcy. the policy question, then, that >> you spend the rest your life paying off that educational debt. there's got to be a better way. >> reporter: the policy question, then, that hangs over the trillion dollar student debt overhang: is there a better way? and if so, what is it? >> brown: paul's next report looks at the move to forgive student loan debt. online, you can figure out whether it's still possible to work your way through school. use our college cost and income calculator.
>> woodruff: next, honoring labor leader and activist dolores huerta. ray suarez has the story. >> suarez: in the 1960s, she organized in the fields and spearheaded a national boycott of grapes and later lettuce. she co-founded with cesar chavez the united farmworkers union, making decent pay and working conditions a reality for thousands of farm workers. yesterday, she stood along with a jurist, an astronaut, a musician, a writer and others at a white house ceremony. president obama put the medal of honor around her neck, the nation's top civilian honor and paid her this tribute. >> without any negotiating experience, dolores helped lead a worldwide grape boycott that forced growers to agree to some of the country's first farm worker contracts. and ever since, she has fought to give more people a seat at the table. "don't wait to be invited," she
says. step in there. and on a personal note, dolores was very gracious when i told her i had stolen her slogan, "si se puede," "yes, we can." knowing her, i'm pleased that she let me off easy, because dolores does not play. >> suarez: today i caught up with huerta, 82 years old and still working as an activist. dolores huerta, welcome to the program. >> thank you for having me. >> suarez: you're someone who spent a big church of your life, fighting, pushing back, does it take a little getting used to, to getting your country's highest honor? >> it's such a thrill, and such an honor, and at the same time it's a humbling experience because it's on the backs of so many other people that were out there trying to get justice for farm workers. people that went to jail, people that were marching, people who died trying to get the things
other people take for granted. i feel that i get this honor on their backs, basically, because of all the things that they did to be able to just make life a little bit better for the people who feed us. >> suarez: during the ceremony, the president said no one sets out to win this honor. no one has a plan to win the presidential medal. you were a school teacher. how did you make the move to go to work for the people who give us our food, who get us our food? >> i got involved in community organizing and doing voter registration going door to door, came to the homes of some of these farm workers and saw they didn't even have any kind of wood or linoleum on their floors. their furniture was orange crates, and their children were bare footed, and i thought, this is wrong, because these people are working very, very hard out there, picking our food every day, and yet, they can't even afford to live decently.
that's when i made up my mind i was going to quit teaching. also, being in the classroom. these children were my-- in the classroom were the children of the dustbowls, the little okie and arkie kids, coming in huckry and threaded bare, i would ask my principal, "i can get a shoe voucher for them, some clothes vouchers and something?" and he would say, "no, their families, they drink up all their money. this is why these people are poor." i knew that was so wrong. i thought it's better to get out and start organizing the farm workers and decide then to quit. >> suarez: you've been at this a long time. it was 1960 when you cofounded the agricultural workers association. you were already workin workingr communities for years. was it still unusual for a woman to do this kind of work? was there resistance to you doing it? >> initially, a little, but actually, what i found out is when people know that you're trying to help them and that
you're sincere about it, that they respond. so i didn't get as much push-backaise thought. actually, people were very responsive, and i was very fortunate. i learned my organizing method from a gentleman named fred ross, sr. he taught caesar how to organize. and we organized through a grass-roots model where we meet in people's homes -- by the way, i'm still doing that with my foundation, the dolores huerta foundation for community organizes. >> suarez: you say once people realize you're going to help them, they accept it, but you were doing things women had never done before-- negotiating contracts with the growers during the earliest days of the united farm workers. were they ready to do business with a woman? >> i think it caught them off guard. they didn't know how to respond. they couldn't do the usual forceful type of thing and when you would bring up to them and show them the conditions the workers were working under, they were kind of embarrassed,
actually. i think it was a big advantage to be a woman, to be able to do those negotiations. it made them feel guilty. >> suarez: american history is full of great teams, great duos who have done great things, and certainly cesar chavez and yourself, and the united farm workers, is a legendary story, but in many ways it was he who became the face of the movement and not you. was that part of the plan? >> actually. it was. right at the beginning he said, is this going to be all right with you? i said fine, because actually, had does this work? you're not out there to get any kind of fame or fortune pup basically want to help people better their lives. so he did say-- now they remember-- he said, "okay, one of us is going to have to be the spokesperson. are you all right if i'm the spokesperson?" of course i said yes. i also have to say, now as a born again femme 30 i could call myself, they realize at some
point-- many of us in the civil rights movement were out there fighting for our people are but we were not fighting for our women. so at some point i said, ," look, we've got to get more women to be involved, more women on our executive board, more women on our ranch committee." and caesar and i actually discussed this and he was okay with that and he started appointing more women to be field directors, and other women to be negotiators. he was sensitive to the fact we needed women to be decision makers, also gray gray you have been beaten, severely beantown, arrested two dozen times, spent years on the road when your kids were little, made very little money along the way. are there any regrets when you take stock, when you look back over your shoulder? or are you still, at 82, still kind of that same woman with the microphone at the picket line? >> when we started organizing the farm workers, people would say, "how are you going to
organize the workers? they don't speak english. they're not citizens. they don't have any money." we would say to the workers you have power. they would say, "what kind of power do we have?" "it's in your person and you together with the other people, the workers, you can make the difference but you have to remember that nobody is going to do it for you. if you don't get out there and try to solve your own problems, it's never going to change. and that same message applies tow everyone. every one of our segments of society trying to make positive changes, fighting for social justice, this is what we have to do-- come together, organize, push back, take that direct action, and then we can make the world a better place. >> suarez: dolores huerta, congratulations. and thanks for joining us. >> thank you. >> brown: finally tonight, we remember music legend doc watson, who died last night at age 89. he was born and lived most of
his life in deep gap, north carolina, became blind as an infant and didn't record an album until his 40s. but watson's guitar-playing and singing helped define and influence the sound of folk and bluegrass music for several generations. here he is in two clips: first at the beginning of his recording career and later at his home in 1972 with banjo great earl scruggs and members of their families. ♪ let it rain, let it pour let it rain a whole lot more ♪ i got them deep river blues. let the rain drive right on ♪ let the waves sweep along ♪ i got them deep river blues ♪
katie, we were watching those performances and you see the famous picking. tell us about the picking styles he was fames for. >> first, finger picking but also for flat picking, and i'm so glad you included that clip with earl, because doc did for the guitar what earl did for the dampo. they took those instruments out of rhythm section and made them lead instruments. before that the guitar had been a rhythm instrument-- >> brown: sort of a backup. >> yes and he started the template for bluegrass, old time and folk music as a lead instrument. >> brown: this is the music he grew up with. it's mountain music. >> sure. >> brown: he brought it out to a wider audience. >> he was discovered by ralpherenceler of the smithsonian hohelped big mob row restart his career, and ralph told him unplug that guitar,
throw that electric guitar away-- >> brown: which he was playing for a while. >> he was playing a country band. and ralph was able to book him into different folk festivals and colleges and things and he became an instant hit. >> brown: he became a kind of authenticity to folk music at the time in the early 60s, right? >> right, and right up until the end he was authentic. boy, he was north carolina, the stories, the accent, the music. his longtime playing partner, david holtz, said he could take a new song and make it sound ancient and take an old song and put a new twist on it. >> brown: when i first saw him, as i suspect was for many people who saw him, it was with his longtime partner, his son, earl. i didn't realize earl started playing as a young boy, 15. >> i think he hid it from his dad. maybe doc was on the road and came home -- >> he didn't know how old his son was-- or his playing. >> didn't know earl was playing and they went on the road together and played together i
believe from '64 to '85, when earl was killed tragically in a tractor accident. >> brown: what was that partnership like? >> i worked with doc a few times, introducing him at wolf trap and other venues, and i never heard him talk, so i can't tell you, but, boy, could they make music together. >> brown: when merle did die, one of the things doc watson did was found merle-fest in his honor. >> it's in about its 25th year. and doc was there in april and did perform a few songs. it swells the town of-- about 80,000 participants show up. 90 bands. all different styles because koch really was embraced and cherished by country, by folk, by bluegrass, by rockabilly. the blues. he could do it all. >> brown: what was he like as
a person and a performer? >> he was very quiet and humble, but i don't think you could say that about his playing. his attack has been described as fierce. and it really was doc who laid down the template for these different styles to be a flat picker, a lead instrument. >> brown: you get the last word here on his legacy. how do you think he'll be remembered? >> with love. >> brown: with love. all right, katy daley, thanks so much for joining us. >> thank you. >> brown: and there's more online, including an interview with doc watson. you'll find that on our home page. >> woodruff: again, the major developments of the day: a new atrocity surfaced in syria. the bodies of 13 people, found bound and shot, in an eastern province. the discovery followed friday's massacre of 108 people in houla.
and growing fears about europe's financial situation triggered a stock sell-off on both sides of the atlantic. the dow industrials lost more than 160 points. online, we have a look at the unprecedented conviction and punishment for liberia's former head of state. kwame holman explains. kwame? >> holman: margaret warner explores what charles taylor's 50-year sentence may or may not mean for africa. that's on our world page. judy and political editor christina bellantoni look at mitt romney's new ipad app. that's on this weeks political checklist on our homepage. and as part of our continuing climate change series, hari sreenivasan asks an expert about erosion along the gulf coast. find that on our science page. all that and more is on our web site: newshour.pbs.org. jeff? >> brown: and that's the "newshour" for tonight. on thursday, we'll look at a new book about the country's most exclusive club, with just five members, all former presidents of the united states. i'm jeffrey brown.
>> woodruff: and i'm judy woodruff. we'll see you online and again here tomorrow evening. thank you and good night. major funding for the pbs newshour has been provided by: and with the ongoing support of these institutions and foundations. and... this program was made possible by the corporation for public broadcasting. and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. captioning sponsored by macneil/lehrer productions